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From: "Dave Beckwith" <>
To: <>
Subject: comment on Owens
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 11:52:13 -0400

Kudos on Michael Leo Owens paper on political engagement and CDC's. It is clearly written, well thought out and provocative. An important contribution.
A couple of thoughts. First, I appreciated and concur enthusiastically with the conclusion that CDC's are often more constrained politically by what they THINK the rules of their corporate status are than by the real rules. The fact is, most effective community organizing groups are tax exempt, 501 c 3's, and there are a thousand ways to change the world without transgressing the tax laws.
Second, it might be interesting to look at the culture of the Black church as it is mirrored in the culture of these CDC's. Many - not all - Black churches have a 'strong pastor' culture, with the pastor serving as a powerful embodiment of the will and aspirations of the congregation. In this culture, the CDC affiliated is less likely to build broad based community participation or leadership or to engage in messy confrontation strategies. It's more likely to serve as a tool for delivering the goods to the community or congregation. Political power is often built by coalitions of Black pastors - as in Detroit. These may be called the Black Ministers' Alliance or the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance or the Interfaith Clergy Circle. These groups can negotiate with politicians and bureaucrats, or even with private businesses and often deliver jobs, housing, training and services to their members and to their neighborhoods. Often they use the rhetoric of participation and even hark back to the confrontational history of Civil Rights days, but the practice is more often leadership centered than it is participatory or mobilizing.
Finally, there are, as Owens reflects often in his paper, lots of interesting examples of CDC's either alone or in coalition breaking out of the mold, struggling against the view that they are a delivery system for government programs or a 'peaceful' alternative to messy community organizing. This is important, because often the CDC or the church is one of the few structures left in low income urban or rural areas. People with anger and concern and good intentions gather there, and try to figure out what to do next. I hope that this paper will be seen by folks in CDC's who see the need to deliver tangible benefits and credible programs, and also see the need to make social and economic change. They'll find encouragement and examples, and will make a new way